By: Jeff Lingard
The drama between Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets finally ended on Monday with Nash, along with Steven Delisle and a 2013 third round pick being traded to the Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first round pick. Columbus retains their third round pick if the Rangers reach the 2012-2013 finals. Assuming the season starts on time, let’s have a look at the short-term and long-term implications of this deal:
For the Rangers:
The Rangers add a big winger who can score at least 30 goals a season and isn’t a liability defensively. Nash is a physical presence who should fit into the Rangers “heavy hockey” style. Nash is also durable, playing at least 75 games in each of the past six seasons. Nash is probably going to be paired with Brad Richards, who is a much better centre than he has been used to playing with. Nash has been a standout international player when he plays with higher caliber players so he should fit into New York well. The possible downside with Nash is that he has not been an elite goal scorer in the past three years (30, 32 and 33 goals) and he has a contract that has a cap hit of $7.8 million per year until 2017-18. The Rangers have more than enough cap room to absorb this cap hit for the next two years. He will have to return to elite goal scoring production in the next three or four years because his contract could make it difficult for the Rangers to retain their young defensive core.
The Rangers can replace Dubinsky and Anisimov with Nash and a full year of Chris Kreider. Dubinsky wasn’t performing up to expectations or his contract and Anisimov is a useful player but not a pivotal one. The Rangers could afford to trade Erixon because they already have a strong, young defensive core in Staal, Girardi, McDonagh and Del Zotto. The first round pick in 2013 should be between the 25th and 30th spot and likely would not result in a player that makes a difference and would be two to three years away from the NHL so trading the pick is a good idea in the Rangers case.
Unless Nash falls on his face and seriously underperforms this deal should be a win for the Rangers, especially in the short term. If Nash becomes a 25 goal scorer and his contract makes it hard for the Rangers to keep some of their defencemen or young forwards in three or four years (especially if the cap decreases) then this deal would be considered a loss. I think given what they gave up, this trade was a risk that the Rangers had to take.
For the Blue Jackets:
Scott Howson put his team between a rock and a hard place with bad trades, draft picks and free agent signings. Somehow, ownership allowed him to be in charge with trading the Blue Jackets first and only franchise player. The Jackets received a number of useful players and a lottery pick with the Rangers 1st round pick but this was closer to a single compared to a home run when evaluating this trade. How Howson was unable to get one of Kreider, McDonagh or Del Zotto in this trade is beyond me.
Dubinsky and Anisimov will both probably play on the top two lines this year. Dubinsky has a cap hit of $4.2 million for each of the next three years which is high for a player with two 20 goal seasons in a four year career. He scored 10 goals in 77 games in 2011-12 and needs to increase his production to be considered a successful pickup by the Jackets. Anisimov is a useful, two-way forward who can score 15 goals a year. He’s not a game changing player but he is only 24 and may have some more offensive upside with more ice time. He also may be a valuable trade chip for a higher round draft pick at the trade deadline.
The real prize of this deal for the Jackets is Erixon. He isn’t going to be a goal scorer or provide a large amount of offence but he is projected to be an above average defensive defenceman and will fill out what will be a good top 4 of Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski in the future. Erixon is going to be a solid NHL player but probably won’t be a star. The first round pick gives the Jackets system more depth and should provide a second or third line forward or a 3rd or 4th defenceman in 3 or 4 years.
The Jackets do get a little bit of cap relief by getting out of the long term commitment that was Nash’s contract. They also needed to make a trade before training camp so the Nash drama wouldn’t cause too much of a distraction. The Jackets need a lot to go right to challenge for a playoff spot in the next couple of years. If I was a Blue Jackets fan, the fact that the return for Nash lacks a player that projects to be a star would leave me disappointed with this trade.